New Rihanna album explores distribution options (despite Tidal errors)

Considering the rhetoric at Tidal is all about artist control and empowerment, the platform has done a highly questionable job of living up to that hype when it comes to distribution. At its launch, Tidal’s whole model of exclusives was a troubled one, with video and audio copies of work by Beyonce and Rihanna quickly making the Internet rounds. It had issues over the rights to stream Drake’s performance in a charity concert. And now, Rihanna is again the subject of poor management with her new album.

Tidal made the album Anti available on Wednesday afternoon in an apparent error, since it was quickly taken back down. But it doesn’t take much time for a leak to go viral and be easily shared through illegal means. The album went back up Wednesday night.

It’s unfortunate that Rihanna and her team likely had to scramble to cover for the error, because some of the planned promotions around her new work are very original. She collaborated with Samsung for an augmented reality web portal and mobile experience to help generate buzz around the project. It’s a cool piece of video art from the performer who has built a reputation for edgy fashion and visual art choices.

She’s also planned to make the album available as a streaming exclusive on Tidal while allowing a set number of copies into circulation as free downloads thanks to the Samsung partnership. Rihanna tweeted out a code for the download, and they’re still available as of this morning. Listeners get a free 60-day trial for Tidal if they download the album in order to experience all of the exclusive content around Anti. Once the limit on downloads is reached, Anti will be a paid release from the Tidal store. There will also be a deluxe version emerging Friday with extra songs. So far, there has been no word about whether or when Anti might appear as a physical album for sale.

With all the attention that Adele got for her efforts to stick with the album sales model (which we’ve seen is a declining business), it’s encouraging to see other massively popular artists like Rihanna experimenting with new approaches to how fans want to hear and access music. It would be nice if Tidal had her back in that process.

Anna Washenko